Guilty Plea in St. Louis ‘Sweetie Pie's’ Murder

But this case is far from over

click to enlarge Tim Norman, left, conspired with Travell Hill in the killing, authorities say. Hill pleded guilty Friday. Norman's trial is set for September. - MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER/MISSOURI DOC
MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER/MISSOURI DOC
Tim Norman, left, conspired with Travell Hill in the killing, authorities say. Hill pleded guilty Friday. Norman's trial is set for September.

The gunman in the murder-for-hire scheme that took the life of reality TV star Andre Montgomery Jr. in St. Louis pleded guilty in Federal court Friday.

Travell Hill, 30, pleded guilty to one count of murder-for-hire and one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire for shooting and killing Montgomery on March 14, 2016, outside a home recording studio on Natural Bridge where Montgomery was recording music.

Hill's co-defendants include Montgomery's uncle and fellow reality TV star, Tim Norman; an exotic dancer from Memphis, Terica Ellis; and former Nelly producer Waiel “Wally” Yaghnam. All three maintain their innocence and their cases are still working their way through the court.

Norman and Montgomery first entered the public eye as cast members on Welcome to Sweetie Pie's, a reality TV show starring Robbie Montgomery, a famed singer who was grandmother to Montgomery and mother to Norman. The show documented the often lighthearted drama around Montgomery's family-run, titular restaurant in the Grove. It debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Network in October of 2011 and ran for nine seasons.

A November 2020 indictment alleges that in 2014 Norman purchased $450,000 worth of life insurance policies on his nephew, Montgomery. He did so with the help of Yaghnam, who in the early 2000s was known for producing chart-topping hits for Nelly, including the 2001 hit “#1.” But Yagham had since become an insurance agent.

Also in 2014, ​​in a Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s episode, Norman aggressively shoved Montgomery in a restaurant kitchen. This kind of thing happens all the time in reality television, and who knows how much the show’s producers played it up, but it reflected a real life animosity.
The following year, a burglary occurred at Robbie's north-county home. Someone broke in and stole more than $200,000 in jewelry and cash. There were no signs of forced entry, and Robbie told the police only two people knew the security codes: her son Norman and her grandson Montgomery.

Montgomery spoke to police about the robbery on March 10, 2016, telling authorities that Norman had done it.

A week later, Montgomery was dead.

According to the 2020 indictment, Norman recruited Terica Ellis, an exotic dancer from Memphis, to lure Montgomery out of the recording studio on the night of his death. She was allegedly paid $10,000 by Norman for her role. Norman allegedy paid Hill $5,000 to commit the murder.

On March 14, 2016, the indictment says Ellis traveled from Memphis to St. Louis. She asked Montgomery for his location and then gave the address to both Hill and Norman. Around 7 p.m., Montgomery came outside to meet Ellis. Moments later Hill pulled the trigger, killing Montgomery.

As part of his guilty plea last week, Hill acknowledged that "the death of Andre Montgomery resulted from the conspiracy on March 14, 2016." He said that on the night of Montgomery's death, he lay in wait for him outside the home recording studio on Natural Bridge. He watched as Montgomery came outside and spoke to someone in a car, whom Hill presumed to be Ellis. As Montgomery walked back inside, Hill said something to him to stop him. Hill then approached Montgomery and "discharged his firearm multiple times." Montgomery died of his injuries soon thereafter in the home recording studio.

In the immediate aftermath of Montgomery's death, Norman played the part of grieving uncle. Later in 2016, a Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s episode featured Norman and Robbie visiting the recording studio on Natural Bridge Road where Montgomery was killed. Norman noted that he hadn’t been back to the location since his nephew’s death. “Really, I’ve been avoiding it,” he said.

For several years the case went cold.
It sprung back to life in the summer of 2020 when the Trump White House initiated a program called Operation Legend, deploying scores of federal agents to 10 American cities to help local law enforcement combat surges in violent crime. The initiative allowed additional resources to be applied to this case and on August 11, 2020, Norman, Yagham and Ellis were officially charged in the killing of Montgomery.

As of right now, Norman, Yagham and Ellis are set to stand trial in September.

Norman and Ellis face multiple charges of murder-for-hire conspiracy. Norman faces additional wire- and mail-fraud charges.

Yagham is facing less serious charges of wire- and mail-fraud conspiracy as well as aggravated identity theft.

About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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